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February 18, 2014
Preacher Myth #5: “You don’t pay taxes on your income, right?”
Answer: “Have you lost your frakkin’ mind? Of course I pay taxes. However, some ministers took an option often referred to as “opting out” on social security due to religious reasons. The key is you can only opt out of paying social security tax and it only counts for ministerial income. This means some preachers have ‘double-dipped’ over the years. They did not pay in social security taxes on their ‘preaching money’ but held a secular job on the side and used that to make sure they were able to still draw it.
How do I know this has happened? Please. I’ve had this conversation numerous times with people who have done it. Many of them regretted it because they found themselves retiring from their ‘secular job’ a bit too soon to draw full social security. If you’re interested in finding out how to do this craziness and you’re a minister, then go here and may God have mercy on your foolish soul.”
Preacher Myth #4: “You can get your student loans forgiven under those new fangled loan forgiveness programs like everybody else, right? I read somewhere if you work for a 501(c)3 (nonprofit organization) you can have them forgiven.”
Answer: Ahh, you’re thinking of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Things get a bit tricky here. You see, technically I do not work for a 501(c)3. While I receive a W-2, no taxes are withheld so I must pay ALL OF them on my own. (Yes, unlike people in “normal” jobs I don’t have an employer pay half my taxes. The full amount comes directly from me.) This means according to the IRS and PSLF folks I’m considered self-employed.
Even if I did happen to work for a religious 501(c)3 where I had taxes withheld from my check, religious workers are held under these guidelines:
“You must meet your employer’s definition of full-time. However, for Public Service Loan Forgiveness purposes, that definition must be at least an annual average of 30 hours per week. For purposes of the full-time requirement, your qualifying employment at a not-for-profit organization does not include time spent participating in religious instruction, worship services, or any form of proselytizing.“
Note the part I emphasized. This could mean that even if I taught a religious course full time at an institution it could be construed that I do not qualify for this type of loan forgiveness. It’s all on my head.
Preacher Myth #3: Preachers and Pastors should visit the sick without being asked.
Answer: Nope. I’ve been in ministry on and off for over twenty years. Some people want you to visit them and some do not. Preachers are NOT psychic (and you ought to be glad about that!) and don’t know who would like a visit and would not like a visit.
The easiest and best way is to let your pastor/preacher know you’d like a visit or have a close family member ask them to visit. Do not be surprised if your pastor is like me and says, “Hey, I don’t know them that well. Would you please come with me? Otherwise, it might feel awkward.”
Yeah, I said it. We’re human. We feel awkward visiting strangers just like the rest of you.
Preacher Myth #2: Preachers should not have doubts or questions about their faith. They should have it all lined out before they get into the pulpit.
Answer: This is a fairly common mistake. In fact, it’s a mistake made by many preachers and pastors. Too often, ministers have walked around in self-assured confidence believing every word they’ve spoken from behind the pulpit was the infallible, inspired word of God. Sorry, to burst any bubbles but preachers get it wrong.
Any good minister should always be growing and learning. Doubt and struggle play an important role in our lives as people of faith and we should always be willing to wrestle with it. Question and grow. That’s the way it works.
One caveat for all of my progressive friends. Please don’t let doubt become your deity. Don’t be willing to wrestle with doubt to the point you’ve forgotten to rest in Christ.
Now, no drum roll for number one. It’s the most obvious one.
Preacher Myth #1:
“Hey, you preachers only work one day a week, right? Oh, wait, two because of those mid-week services?”
Answer: “Do you want me to slap you upside your head?”
Seriously, I said that to a young man when I was in my mid-twenties when he told me he wanted to be a preacher for this very reason. He didn’t realize I was holding down a full-time job and working “part-time” at a local church as an associate pastor while helping my wife finish college. I think this boy was about 18 or 19 and he recoiled at the level of anger and frustration which poured out from me.
That memory still makes me smile.
Now, let’s get serious here. There have always been tremendous demands on a preacher’s time. I’ve seen this demand cause marriages to become cold and stale and/or fall flat apart…and this was before the common usage of the Internet we have today.
Let’s face it, we live in the information age. People who used to expect to get in touch with preachers at a reasonable hour are not afraid to text, call, tweet, IM, Facebook, or contact you in a half-dozen other ways any time day or night. Many expect you to respond immediately. I’ve seen people get downright mean because you didn’t notice their prayer request for that ingrown toenail they posted at 2AM.
So, here is my personal run down. I don’t know about all the preachers out there but I know I spend at least 20-30 hours a week studying for sermons. Now, this studying does include reading normal news and staying up on what’s going on in the world around me. Preachers need to be aware of what’s happening. Now, this may sound like a lot for someone who only preaches 20-30 minutes a week, right? (I generally speak two to three times a week in different contexts so it requires a bit more for me. I want to be able to switch gears well and personalize the message for each group.)
My rule of thumb is one hour of study for one minute of preaching. In a world where anyone can google what you’re preaching on, you must make sure you’ve done your studying and you have correct information. That’s right, no urban myths should be spouted from the pulpit as fact. So, aspiring preacher, don’t quote The Onion as if it were true. Please…don’t. I will hurt you.
It’s also important to get out into the world. Seriously, go out and meet people in general. I’m not talking about evangelism or anything of that nature. Just listen to people’s stories. Make new friends. You’ll find this is an essential part of preaching because, without it, your stories get stale and there is no new life breathed into them. Part of what I do is go out looking for God’s story in the world around me. Sometimes this story makes me happy and allows me to share something beautiful. Sometimes just the opposite happens. There are stories filled with pain and hurt which need to be shared as well. In the end, you may find yourself giving someone Christ or, if you’re really fortunate, find someone giving you a bit of Christ into your own life.
There is also a certain amount of visitation to be done. Continuing Education should occur often. Spiritual disciplines should be practiced. Meeting and getting to know folks in the community should occur. Plus, there is a level of counseling that occurs many don’t realize. You might be surprised at how often people who are not members of a congregation you serve seek you out and ask for guidance. Most of these folks aren’t connected to any church at all and you find yourself the only contact they have. This is a good thing and shouldn’t be avoided but it does take time.
There is also the schmoozing. Pastor/Preachers are expected to schmooze a certain amount in the community. Personally, I don’t mind it. I get to walk in there with my earrings in and clerical collar on. If they can handle that then I’m obviously in the right place. (And, more often than not, I’m in the right place)!
Oh, and please don’t let me get started about the committees, paperwork, planning, and staffing of a local church. You’ll just make me sad.
So, there you go. 5 myths about preaching and preachers your probably didn’t want to know. If you read this far, God bless you and say a prayer for me and all those others out there doing what they love.
February 10, 2014
Recently, I’ve had a conversation with a colleague on how a minister spends their time. I’ve also had others ask me similar questions. So, how does a geekpreacher spend his week? Let’s take a look at last week and see.
Sunday. Two worship services. Also had some phone calls in the afternoon to make. For a Sunday, I have to say this was not as hectic as it could be.
Monday. I had interview work for my Board of Ministry due. I’d turned it in a week early but double checked it anyway. Also had a meeting at the office. Spent some time looking over mail. The amount of junk mail you receive at a local church is amazing. I sometimes wonder how much these “ministries” would save if they tried another form of marketing.
Tuesday. Brownsville District Clergy Meeting. I always enjoy attending these but sometimes it’s a bit of struggle to get my daughter off to school, come home and walk the dog, and make sure I’m ready to be at the meeting on time.
The meeting went well. Lots of challenges from the District Superintendent as well as the Bishop. Quite a few changes are coming along on how we should be handling things on the local level. There is an increased emphasis on the spiritual life of all of the leaders (not just the pastor!) in the church and I am glad to see it.
After the meeting, a number of us go have lunch together and see how each other is doing. There is some good conversation and it’s always nice to be updated on what is occurring in their lives and ministries. Of course, I end up staying later because one of my colleagues and I need to see about planning a meeting for yet another peer group! These groups are important but we keep finding it more and more difficult to coordinate our schedules. So, we just picked a date and hope our friends can make it. Hopefully we won’t have to reschedule again. These meetings are important for us.
As an aside, I should point out I am involved in three peer groups. One has been assigned by the Board of Ordained Ministry as I work my way through the ordination process. The second is one assigned to me by my District Superintendent. He has asked me to coordinate a study for UMC ministers in my county. (Very thankful one of the members of this group is going to help put together the next meeting.) The third group was one I was invited to by mistake. Yep, a mistake. I needed to speak with a friend one day and he said we could just talk “at the meeting.” I said, “What meeting?” He told me, “Wait, you’re not in the peer group?” I said, “What group?” I think he felt guilty about it so he invited me to the group. I must say it’s been one of the best mistakes ever. I’ve made friends with people I may never have met otherwise. (I’m looking at you, Will Cooper. You’re awesome)
Wednesday. Had an afternoon meeting which was canceled. That turned out to be a good thing since both children were home sick. This, of course, makes study difficult and even though one is fifteen she still wants a bit of attention when she’s not feeling well. I think I ran to the local pharmacy at least twice because I kept forgetting things.
Since it’s Wednesday, I had to make sure I was prepared for our study. We’ve been talking about the previous Sunday’s message and, while it may seem easy to talk about it, it’s not. Being willing to be critiqued for a message you’ve preached is never an easy thing. Also made sure to pick up some chicken since it was a “potluck night.”‘
Thursday. The four year old was still sick. So, I had to bundle him up to take the girl to High School. Somehow I think he wanted even more attention. Overall, though, it was a good day. It was nice spending time alone with him. He took a nap when we got back from dropping “Sissy” off at school and, I must admit, I napped with him. After he woke up, we ate a snack and about a few hours later he was down for a nap again. I know he must have been feeling bad because he doesn’t normally sleep that much.
We did have a nice time playing some Mario Brothers on the Nintendo emulator I own. It was really nice seeing him develop some hand-eye coordination. (That’s the excuse I’m giving the wife!) Thankfully, I was able to get in some reading time this day. I know I would have been in trouble this week if I had not outlined my sermons a few months in advance.
Since the little boy was feeling better by the end of the day, we picked up his sister from school and then drove over to Brownsville. My wife’s school was having games and snacks for the pre-k and kindergarten children from 5PM-7PM and she was required to attend. (I really get frustrated when people imply teachers only work from 7:30AM to 3:00 PM.) We met mommy and were able to share a meal at the local restaurant with just enough time for her to get back to school. I took the children to the games for a little while and was extremely happy with myself for having given the boy his bath in the afternoon. Plan ahead!
Of course, I did let him stay up a little bit later than normal so he could see his mom before he went to bed.
Friday. Friday is an interesting day for me. Most people look forward to it as the end of their week but I’ve spent years in the ministry as well as in retail and for me this is when things get busy. Instead of winding down, this is when I wind up!
I thought it would be a relaxing day where I could relax and finish my studying for Sunday’s sermon but I was wrong! It seems I’d forgotten I had a meeting with my ministry mentor in Jackson but, thankfully, my iPhone alarm went off 15 minutes before the meeting. The only problem is it is a 25 minute drive to Jackson! Thankfully, I was able to get in touch with my mentor and he wasn’t bothered about me being late. I’m normally pretty punctual and I really appreciate the grace he showed me at this time.
We had a great discussion and I must say he helped make me feel a bit more certain of myself as I will hopefully be called before the Board of Ordained Ministry in March. It’s been a long process in the United Methodist Church. If all goes well, I will have been in the ordination process for seven years and be ordained this June. (Seven is a pretty good number, right?)
Saturday. Snow. Snow. Snow. Plus, now I have “the crud” the children had been suffering with and it seems to have hit me full force. However, I know I’ve got to get out and check the churches. I drive to the “country church” to see how the roads look and I’m a bit worried about what will happen if the roads freeze over. I call my wife and tell her and, in her great wisdom, she calls one of the leaders in the congregation and asks her thoughts about Sunday services. My wife tells me they believe it will be fine and that makes me happy! Hate to have to miss services due to the weather.
I make it to the “city church” and see the sidewalks are covered pretty thickly in snow. I’m a bit worried about this knowing I feel like crud and don’t have any idea where the tools would be to clean it all off. So, I go in my office and look through my desk for a few numbers I might need to call. Before I can call anyone, I am distracted by MORE JUNK MAIL. I really think this stuff is a waste of money and time.
As I’m chunking it all in the trash, one of our great church workers comes in. This lady is awesome. She tells me she’s going to check the sidewalks and see what she can do. I tell her, “Let me know how I can help” and I get lost in sorting through some things on my desk. I eyeball a commentary or two wondering if I should pick them up. Before I know what’s happened, an hour has gone by so I decide to walk outside and see what’s up.
Every sidewalk has been cleaned! Amazing. Awesome. Awe inspiring. It just blows me away.
So, my week was busy and all this went on. I felt a bit overwhelmed at times and in the midst of it all a faithful, caring person comes by and takes care of the sidewalks. I know this may not seem like much but I have come to know this person. She works….she has grandchildren….she stays busy. Yet, when needed, she is always there.
And, suddenly, my week doesn’t seem as busy as it could have been.
February 5, 2014
In honor of the Knights of the Dinner Table: Live Action Series hitting its Kickstarter goal, I thought I’d write a post about its creator, Jolly Blackburn.
My wife and I first met Jolly Blackburn, creator of the gamer comic Knights of the Dinner Table, in 2003 at Midsouth Con in Memphis, TN. This was a time in my life when I had turned my back on ministry because I was tired of the frustration of trying to “sell myself” to churches to get a job doing what I felt called to do. Well, that was a major reason. The other reason was I also had become very tired of the nitpicky doctrines I had to sign off on as well. (Long story short, I was on a journey to realizing this whole Christian thing is about Jesus. He summed it up best when he said, “Love God with all you’ve got and your neighbor as yourself.”)
What’s this got to do with meeting Jolly? Well, Jolly didn’t know when we met that I used to be a preacher and that wasn’t something I was openly sharing with the gaming community. Too often, gamers and geeks had been mistreated by Christians and, at that point in time, the gaming community wasn’t too accepting of people of faith as well. They were, rightly so, a little gun shy. So, I kept things on the “down low.” Besides, I’d turned my back on this ministry thing, right?
Jolly and I met after the opening ceremonies of Midsouth Con. I had been to MidSouth Con a few times by this point in my life but, as a gamer, I never went to the opening ceremonies. Why would I want to go to that? There’s gaming to be done! However, I knew Jolly would be there and I thought it would be a great chance to meet him. I was afraid I’d have to wade through the crowd to meet him but, since that crowd only contained my wife, me, and maybe two others it was pretty easy to meet this guy.
This was our first conversation as I remember it. I walked up to Jolly and said, “Hey, man, I love your comic! I’m glad to finally meet you.” Jolly said, “Oh, wow, there are gamers here? Man, they asked me to come as a comic artist Guest of Honor but I’m just a gamer. Where are all the gamers?” I laughed and said, “They were here hours before the Con started and are already playing games.” He said, “Really? Dude, can you show me around when I’m free? I want to get my game on.” At that point, a friendship began to develop…a good friendship. (I could mention the “Drunken Orcs at the Gates Game” but I think the video is still floating around the InterTubes somewhere and I will let it speak for itself.)
Jolly and I stayed in touch over the years through the KenzerCo forums as well as email and various other social media and we seemed to hit it off. It wasn’t until a few years later I first met his wife Barbara (Barb) and found out what an amazing person she is. Oh, she is a pretty humble lady and, if you don’t know her, may not realize her pure awesomeness. She’s kind, considerate, nurturing and a great human being. I also found out she’s a devout Christian. This meant, wonder of wonders, I could sit down and talk gaming and comics with Jolly and then, in the next breath, look over at Barb and discuss some faith topic we were both interested in.
Truly, I couldn’t have asked for a better friendship to develop. And this friendship has led to some interesting times and places. Because of Jolly and his ability to make friends with almost anybody I found that, when I returned to ministry, knowing him kept others in the gaming community from shying away from me. Come on? A preacher among gamers? That can be scary for some folks if not downright intimidating.
Jolly, in one way or another, has helped introduce me to gamers and geeks from other faiths, people who claim no faith, and people who couldn’t give a rat’s behind about any of this spirituality stuff. Without Jolly as a friend, I don’t think I would have been as welcomed as openly as I’ve been among the gaming community. I mean, come on, this is guy you have to work hard at to dislike!
And why did this happen? I don’t really know. It’s definitely not something I planned or expected. All I know is I was a fan wanting to meet a writer and I was more than willing to help this guy find a game. He was also open to making new friends. In fact, he is so open and nice, those of us who know him get a little protective. In the gaming community there is always someone trying to promote the newest and greatest hit….and all they need is YOU to support them.
It’s tough because being a geek is all about making new friends among those who like strange and wacky things. At least, I like to think so. And Jolly is the type of guy who was willing to make new friends. He is someone who is not afraid to take a chance on people. I think this is a pretty good Christian sentiment and one I’m still working on…making new friends. Even ones who can be a bit frustrating and needy. Or especially ones who are a bit frustrating and needy?
In the end, I’ll sum this whole post up with this: “Go out and make new friends. If you’re a gamer and/or a geek, it’s always nice to have someone else to hang out with and, if you’re a Christian it gives you the opportunity to help someone in need and maybe spread a little bit of this Jesus guy around. If you’re a geek, gamer, and a Christian, well, I think you’ve hit the trifecta and should have the best of all worlds.”
February 2, 2014
I recently received a message about evaluating fruitfulness in one’s ministry and this is an area I’ve thought about over the years. As I thought over it, I realized I could point to some wonderful speaking engagements over the years or drop a name or two of well known people I’ve had the privilege to share with during this time.
However, these aren’t the ones which stand out to me. The three that do are quite different. The first is a young man who contacted me a few years ago whom I youth pastored in my early twenties. He said to me, after describing a number of difficulties he’d faced in his life, one thing had stuck with him during the intervening time that I’d mentioned to him, “God has done some amazing things for me, he will do the same for you.” The young man told me those words had helped him through those days.
The second one I think about was when a lady said to me in a small group and, later, in front of a much larger one “Brother Derek has taught me how to read the Bible through the lens of grace.”
Last, but not least, is my family. Having a wonderful wife and two children. My wife’s steady faith has always been a beacon and guide to me. Her willingness to growth with me on this journey of faith has been quite amazing.
Our daughter’s incessant questions which remind me of my own which I began to ask when I was much older also shows me seeds sprouting which had been planted at her baptism. (Nevermind her willingness to bludgeon me with my own words as a reminder to keep me faithful to my calling.)
And the little boy….the one with the willingness to change a family prayer and add a bit of goofiness and laughter when we all begin to take ourselves too seriously.
Yes, this is the fruit I see. Some of it has grown so nicely and begun dropping seeds of its own while others are beginning to blossom and smell so very sweet.
At the end of the day, may these three be the judge of my life and ministry.
February 1, 2014
I recently posted this on Facebook and my wife said I should post it on my blog so here goes….
Prayers needed. Tomorrow is Sunday and I will be running over all creation today to help a friend. Plus, my daughter turns 15 in just a few days….that’s kinda stressful, eh?
One major thought overwhelms me in all this…the idea of being a vocational pastor. In all of this craziness, I can think of no other job I could have which could afford one the flexibility to be there for those in need.
No matter how often I’ve questioned the concept of “paid clergy” over the years, it comes back to the simple truth this work is meant to allow me the freedom to be there for others I would not normally be free to do so.
This reminds me so much of when my mother was ill before her passing. Prior to returning to vocational ministry it was nigh impossible for me to take the time to run home and be with her. During her last year of life, I went to Louisiana at least 4-5 times. This was more than many years previous added together.
Sadly, mom could not realize this because her bed bound state caused the days to run together. In her mind, she thought I was visiting less and less on my return to ministry. It took me a long time to get over this hurt but, now, I understand it more clearly.
Today, and all days in the future, as I walk this ministry path to which God has called me I realize the key area this geekpreacher has been called to:
It is to be available. To share a ministry of presence and, in doing so, realize I cannot be at all places and all times. In living into this “Jesus life” as a pastor, part of my goal is to lead and guide others into this ministry of presence within their local settings.
I may have the freedom, at times, to run to Memphis or half way around the world which reminds me that, as a pastor, I’m to guide those living within a given area to be Christ present in the lives of those right around the corner to them.
This, for me, is how the beauty of the Methodist system of itinerant preachers can be lived out.
January 26, 2014
The title of today’s blog is based off a question recently asked by our Bishop in the Memphis Annual Conference of the UMC. This is not my usual geeky fair.
The following is a mixture of thoughts I’ve recently put on Facebook and mentioned in my sermon series on 1 Corinthians.
One of the greatest problems facing the United Methodist Church is not Calvinism but, rather, our unwillingness to follow our Wesleyan heritages demand we call all people to experience the life transforming love of God as made real in Jesus Christ and to share that love with our neighbor through both word and deed.
Thanks to my friend Mark L Agee for helping me think this through….
What is often thought of as #Calvinism is a Christian cultural malaise that says “everything happens for a reason” thereby allowing many to ignore their personal responsibility for their own actions as well as their inaction in the lives of the hurting and needy.
While not a Calvinist, I’ve had great friends in the PCUSA who truly understand personal responsibility for their own decisions as well as a call to social and personal care for others.
For the United Methodist, this should be a “no brainer” but, sadly, this malaise has effected the religious affections of Christians of all backgrounds. The key to a #UMC view of this is tied to something Bishop Bill McAlilly has continually tried to reinforce in our conference.
We are called to Matthew 25/28 ministry. This is a ministry that engages a humanity ravaged by sin with the life transforming power of Christ while, at the same time, offering a healing hand of hope.
November 28, 2013
What am I thankful for? I’m thankful I forgot to check the mail yesterday. I walked down to the mailbox before leaving for my mother-in- law’s house for our yearly feast and found an advance copy of The Well-Played Life by my friend and mentor, Leonard Sweet.
I’m also very thankful for our yearly Annual Conference in the #UMC where Len spoke three years ago. I received a message from a mutual friend that Len needed a ride from his hotel to the conference. Since I had heard some good things about him, I decided it would be “the Christian thing” to pick him up. Right, yeah, you get a chance to meet the keynote speaker in advance. How great is that?
Since that time, Len has become a wonderful friend and mentor. I am looking forward to reviewing this book as I’ve had many of the ideas bounced off my cohort by Len. The great thing is that Len sent me this copy knowing quite a few things about me.
One, I am a gamer. I play games.
Two, I am a playful person and am sometimes not taken seriously because of it or, the inverse occurs, people sometimes take my playfulness too seriously.
Three, I don’t pull any punches. I’m not afraid to disagree with you, challenge you, and/or frustrate you.
At the end of the day, though, I will still love you and call you friend. So, I’m thankful for my friend, Leonard Sweet, who has guided, affirmed, and given me a quick kick in the rear over the past few years.
Most of all, though, I am thankful that he has told me it is quite alright to have so much fun at what I do.
Happy Thanksgiving, Len.
November 22, 2013
Today the web is abuzz with articles about a man who died fifty years ago today. His life had a tremendous impact on society and, personally, it has touched me in a number of ways. In fact, my first published article, in the early 1990s, was in my hometown newspaper and in it I quoted one of this man’s most famous sayings:
“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Excerpt From: C. S. Lewis. “Mere Christianity.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/REUFv.l
Yes, Clive Staples Lewis. My story with his writings is long and varied. In brief, when I first came to faith I avoided the Chronicles of Narnia because it was that dreaded “fantasy writing” I associated with my earlier “heathen years.” Thankfully, after coming to faith, I attended a good undergraduate school and found out, wonder of wonders, that Lewis is a Christian and, in fact, the same Lewis who had written Mere Christianity. (My daughter reminds me to use the present tense since I’ve often told her our God is a God of the living, not the dead. So, I try to refer to those gone on before us in the present tense.) For some reason, I had not made the real connect between the CS Lewis who wrote the Chronicles of Narnia and the CS Lewis who wrote Mere Christianity. Weird, eh?
Since those days, I have come back to reading fantasy of all stripes and have enjoy it immensely. The writers don’t have to be Christian and, in fact, I read many who are not people of faith at all. I realize many of these writers are speaking about the journey of faith even when they don’t realize it. (Though I suspect more realize it than are willing to admit it.)
Of course, I attribute this return to reading fantasy to CS Lewis and even though some find his Narnia books a bit childish this is what I enjoy about them the most! It’s a time where I can return to the beauty of childhood where animals talk, there is mystery in the world which cannot always be answered, Father Christmas is roaming about, and there is a Great Lion who will protect, teach, and guide us as we journey with Him through strange and interesting lands.
So, on this day, I am remembering a great writer and a great man. Someone who has, in my opinion, had a greater impact on people of faith in the 20th century than most any other writer. Most of all, though, I am reminded of the above quote which stuck in the heart of a young wannabe preacher over twenty years ago and still speaks to me today.
God’s Best Always and in All Ways,
November 18, 2013
So, it’s almost 2:00 AM on a Sunday and I’m still awake. I’ve been wrestling with sermons over the coming weeks and am a bit frustrated. Normally I try to prepare my sermons some time in advance just in case “things come up.” You see, in the life of a pastor, anything could happen. You never know when someone might become ill (your own children included!), a person may pass on, or what else might come up.
Considering I’m also in the ordination process with the United Methodist Church there are also quite a few extra things on my plate. I have also been trying to work on a doctorate over the last year and that has put a number of extra things on my plate. It also doesn’t help that I’m a voracious read who has let his own reading list pile up as well.
So, needless to say, I’m feeling a bit wrung out. I don’t feel as if I’ve really been seeking God’s help in preparing these upcoming sermons so I have spent the last hour just reading Scripture and trying to find a direction in which to point. You see, I preach mostly from the Revised Common Lectionary and have been doing so for the last five years. Considering the Lectionary is on a three year cycle one might think it would be easy to go back a few years and read over old sermons and possibly reuse them. This isn’t always a bad thing but, in this case, nothing was working out.
So, what have I done? Why am I still up? Have been able to work anything out? The short answer is, “Yes, I think so.” I decided to start reading the Scriptures through the lens of my geeky self. I looked at the Advent texts with geeky eyes and believe I’ve finally come up with something for this coming season and hope it will speak into the life of the church. As the geekpreacher, you’d think this would be fairly easy but it hasn’t. Strangely enough, I don’t normally preach a lot of geeky sermons. Oh, a few have popped up over the years and I make sure I prepare one for GenCon every year but at the churches I serve I tend to not head in that area.
This year will be different and I hope you will be praying for me. I’ve decided to go with the theme of “A Very Sci-Fi Christmas” and hope it will work out alright. The sermons which I will be preaching, yet sadly unable to video, will be:
Advent 1: The Sleeper Must Awaken (Dune)
Advent 2: The Eye of Harmony (Dr. Who)
Advent 3: The Road Warrior (Mad Max)
Advent 4: The Last Starfighter
It’s quite an eclectic bent and I’m still a little unsteady about it all but I think it will go well. The biggest challenge is trying to sum up a variety of movies and TV shows from the 70s and 80s to people who may not have seen them. If you think you can some up any of these movies in two to three short sentences, please feel free to do so in the comments section. If you’re able to help out, so much the better. Crowd sourcing a sermon, which I’ve done in the past, can be quite a bit of fun.
At the very least, this means I’ve got to go back and review a lot of source material. Yes, it’s going to be tough watching all these movies and reading all these biblical texts and see how these stories intertwine. (Unfortunately, you can’t hear the happy sounds I’m making as I type this right now. In reality, I’m hoping this is going to be a lot of fun. So, again, I ask that you say a prayer or two for me and, barring that, please help me find a copy of Mad Max 2 on DVD. It’s the only one I’m missing.)
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October 17, 2013
Go. Go. Go.
It’s just too hectic for most folks I know. I’m fortunate that, for the most part, I order my own schedule. I have set things that need to be done but there is a great flexibility to my life that many others do not have.
This often puts me in an awkward place because, as a pastor, it can seem frustrating when other people can’t seem to get their spiritual life on track. Of course, that’s silliness on our part and most ministers eventually realize others life schedules are often more rigid.
How do we handle it? How do guide those who seem so locked into their schedules they can find time for their own seeking of God much more the community of faith?
First, we’ve got to realize Just because our spiritual practices were done in a particular manner years ago does not mean they have to continue that way forever. Yes, I know you’ve been taught otherwise but that’s just not how life works.
If you’re a Tabletop Gamer, I’m pretty sure you play very differently than you did 20 years ago. At least I hope you do or your going to be stuck in such a rut that you’re no longer fun to play with. Hopefully you’ve been learning new strategies over the years and better ways to enjoy the game. I’m sure you’ve even had to learn to reschedule your “play time” around spouse time, kid’s time, and work time.
This is because jobs change, schedules change, homes change, and preferences and attitudes change. At one time in my life, I’d take a five minute break at work and go into the restroom and pray in a corner. (You could lock the door. That helped a lot.) It was the only place I could find to be alone. You often find you do what you can, when you can, and wherever you can to just get through the day. Gaming is the same way and the spiritual life is the same way. You find a way to make room for that which you enjoy.
For me this means after dropping my daughter off at school, I spend many mornings at Sonic. I grab a bite to eat and read my friends prayers and devotionals as they come across Facebook. It’s definitely a change from the way I prayed and read two decades ago. I’m also fortunate because it suits me.
But even this needs changing up. I can’t stay in the same pattern all the time because I tend to stagnate. I feel the need to “flow with the go.” There’s a desire in me to go and be…a desire to move and dance with the Spirit and I have learned this means I must change things up. Flow into different patterns and places so I might be able to see God’s movement in the world around me. It allows me to see Jesus in ways I’ve never seen Him before.
So, are you willing to change the manner of your spiritual practices over the years? Are you willing to let the Spirit’s wind move you into different and exciting places? These are the places where we find God making order out of what appears to be a chaotic life.
At the very least, change up your gaming style. It will make your friends much happier and bring a bit more excitement to the Table.